A chaotic fight for survival befalls a group of friends on the Appalachian trail in this iconic franchise reboot from the original creator Alan. B. McElroy.
When a dream trip turns into a nightmare, one group of friends finds themselves at the mercy of an urban legend – The Foundation. As a freak accident drives the group deeper into the mountains, they find themselves succumbing one by one to hunting traps large enough to take out anyone that dares venture off the beaten path.
The group soon realises they are not alone and what happens next escalates into a gruesome game of survival, as those who called the mountain home respond to this outside threat with their own swift and brutal justice…
As a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer the original Wrong Turn, released in 2003, holds a special place in my heart. Eliza Dushku branching out on her own and shouldering most of the original film’s narrative was a highlight of early 00’s horror. Whilst the subsequent sequels didn’t quite hold the same level of regard amongst viewers the franchise became a staple of direct-to-video horror.
Original writer Alan B. McElroy, now a notable Star Trek: Discovery writer, returns to the franchise for this soft reboot which ejects some of the original films concept in order to carve a more unique path. The 2003 film hung on the hicksploitation narrative which became a common trope with the The Hills Have Eyes franchise amongst others. Here that concept has been massively overhauled, taking away the hillbillies and replacing them with a much more complex structure.
Our group of hipsters, fronted by a more than up for the challenge Charlotte Vega, stray off an Appalachian trail and find themselves caught up in American political nightmare. Wrong Turn ’21 has a strong message under the surface and represented visually by The Foundation. A cult of animal pelt wearing Confederate throwbacks who left society in 1859 for a secluded life in the mountains. McElroy has given The Foundation a backstory and a hierarchy which is unprecedented for what could otherwise be deemed a generic horror movie.
The Foundation’s ruler, John (Bill Sage), challenges our moral code with some striking shades of grey. Jen (Vega) makes it clear, perhaps a little too clear, that she has a set idea of right and wrong. But her journey in to the mountains challenges those ideas. It’s a little heavy handed, much like Adam (Dylan McTee) and his use of a tree branch.
When our group begins to fall foul of traps set by The Foundation they’re the typical horror movie victims. Our preconceived idea of the slasher genre tell us these kids will be picked off one-by-one. When the opportunity arises and our kids fight back it, at first, feels like the standard horror movie response. But when the group comes face-to-face with John the tables turn. John puts the group on trial for murder, as would be the case in our civilised world, and Adam is sentenced to death. The Foundation’s response is no different than ours would be, should the death sentence still exist this scenario could play out in any court room.
Jen, accusing The Foundation of barbarism, is confronted by outrage from John and his group. Suddenly Wrong Turn becomes a battle of idealisms rather than a hack-and-slash journey through the mountains. It’s an unexpected and entirely welcome twist on the genre. Despite its heavy handed execution Wrong Turn mostly gets things right. Taking cues from Ari Aster’s Midsommar absolutely helps to liven up the party.
Director Mike P. Nelson crafts an excellent visual world for the film. The woods often feel like a character in its own right. Claustrophobic but also sprawling. Dangerous but also familiar. The traps the group falls in to bring the level of gore that fans have come to expect from a Wrong Turn movie. Nelson seems to have a passion for headshots so there are plenty of stomach churning skull shots to be found.
As if challenging your social and moral ideals wasn’t enough, Wrong Turn also has a major subplot including Matthew Modine to round it out. Modine as Jen’s father is on the hunt to find his daughter. It bookends the story of the groups downfall to add some context and heart to events. When he finds Jen has integrated in to The Foundation society the film pivots again to challenge the audiences reactions.
McElroy’s script has a strongly defined sense of doom for all the characters involved. It seems that obstacles here are more insurmountable than they were back in 2003. There’s a sense that Jen, as our pseudo lead, will never escape from her experiences and that lingers through the end credits in unexpected and surprising ways.
The newly updated Wrong Turn is updated in new and exciting ways.
Written by Alan B. McElroy and directed by Mike P. Nelson, Wrong Turn stars Matthew Modine, Emma Dumont, Charlotte Vega, Daisy Head and Bill Sage. The film is available on digital platforms now and hits DVD on May 2, 2021.
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